A report highlighting cases related to substance abuse in Alaska in 2014 was released by the Department of Public Safety Friday.
The Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit’s 2014 annual drug report covered arrests and seizures of items ranging from alcohol and prescription medication to heroin and meth labs.
Over $28 million worth of drugs — in street value — were seized in 2014 by federal, local and state law enforcement agencies. The Anchorage Police Department alone was responsible for more than $6 million worth of drug seizures, followed by the Juneau Police Department, with a total street value amount of more than $5.7 million.
According to the report, there has been a significant increase in cases involving heroin in the state, in both rural and urban areas. In 2012, only 4.93 pounds of heroin were seized by Alaska law enforcement, compared to 2013′s 55.12 pounds and 2014′s 22.42 pounds of heroin. The report noted that much of the state’s heroin import is brought in via the U.S. Postal Service and “body carries.”
The State Medical Examiner’s office has also stated “a significant number of deaths where heroin and other opiates are listed as the cause” have occurred.
Methamphetamine-related cases also showed a notable increase of roughly 19 percent since 2013, according to the report, despite a crackdown on users and labs alike by law enforcement agencies. The report pointed to 2006 legislation regulating the sale of pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in making methamphetamine — as the cause of success on law enforcement’s part to locate and seize methamphetamine labs in the state. Despite that, a disturbing trend began to emerge, the report says.
“Although we have witnessed a decrease in the number of methamphetamine labs since 2006, SDEU has some concern of the recent popularity of a new method in producing methamphetamine known as the ‘One Pot’ or ‘Shake and Bake’ method,” the report stated. “As this method begins to gain in popularity within Alaska, it will increase the danger to all citizens of Alaska from explosions, fires, and exposure to dangerous chemicals. All of the labs encountered by the SDEU in 2013 employed the ‘One Pot’ method.”
No labs were seized by law enforcement in 2014, according to the report.
Also mentioned in the report was the continuance of large numbers of prescription medication being abused, particularly oxycodone and hydrocodone. Deaths from prescription drug overdose made up a larger portion of deaths ”in all of the United States than heroin and cocaine combined.” Investigations into such cases revealed that many times, the medication was illegally obtained.
The full report is available on the Department of Public Safety’s website.